No business as usual on crime and security
July 7, 2002
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From outgoing chairman of the Community, Belize's Prime Minister Said Musa, to the summit's host, President Bharrat Jagdeo, who has assumed the chairmanship for the next six months, as well as the newest Prime Minister of CARICOM, Perry Christie of The Bahamas, the message was the same:
The Community cannot really move forward at the pace and level required in the interest of the region's peoples, without respect for law and order and with concerted battles being waged against criminality by firm, realistic measures to ensure national/regional security.
Other leaders, among them the Prime Ministers of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and St. Lucia, also faced with serious crime problems at home, need no reminder of the gravity of the challenge being posed for national/regional security from forces that seem determined to make life difficult for the security forces and, consequently for the people of the nation state.
The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Lester Bird, is convinced that more than talking, there is the urgent need to have in place specific arrangements for common action at a regional level in dealing with crime and security.
He has, therefore, proposed the creation of a Caribbean Rapid Response Anti-Crime Unit, that could perhaps work in collaboration with the Regional Security System (RSS) but having its own identity and independent funding, to help any member state of the Community faced with serious threats to the rule of law and constitutional government.
He has since disclosed that his suggestion has been "accepted in principle" with funding being among concerns to be taken on board within the framework of the regional approach on crime and security.
We will have to wait to learn more about the extent of the collaborative efforts of the CARICOM leaders, or what the Heads of Government are prepared to make public on initiatives to be pursued within the framework of the Regional Task Force on Crime and Security.
The Belize Prime Minister has called for a regional approach to deal specifically with the threats to law and order from the criminal deportees coming back to the region, some with serious criminal records in the USA, Canada and the United Kingdom.
It, therefore, cannot be business as usual, the traditional approaches in combating the criminals and those bent on making a mockery of the rule of law, by reducing this or any other CARICOM state to a lawless society.
Trinidad and Tobago, for example, which has had to deal with two coups to replace constitutional, democratically elected governments, is perhaps well placed to appreciate the grave implications of the unprecedented violent invasion of the Presidential Complex in Guyana that tragically resulted in the loss of lives, injuries of a number of people, among them innocent civilians and members of the police and fire services.
We await the actions to follow the decisions taken at the 23rd CARICOM Summit, and particularly on the very pressing issues pertaining to crime and security on which so much else depend for peaceful development.